By Dave Herrera | Sept. 4, 2016 | 11:55 a.m.
Okay, so not according to the calendar. There's still a few weeks left before fall.
Just the same, in Denver, as far as the outdoor party season is concerned, it's pretty much a wrap. Just look around. All the signs of fall are here: It's starting to get darker sooner, the weather is getting a little more sweater, the Broncos are back, and Goodness is winding down until next summer.
Goodness, of course, is one of the parties helmed by DJ Low Key (aka Justin Green), who's been helping keep the Mile High City cracking for years with The Solution, along with fellow scene icon DJ Lazy Eyez (aka Sean Choi).
Low Key is also a member of the SoWhat! crew with DJ Big Styles and DJ K-Nee, the founders of Denver's longest running party and the pioneers who inspired Low Key to start The Solution, which itself has become a Denver institution.
Goodness (just goodness, no "the" preceding it) has likewise become a rite of summer since first launching five seasons ago, and it's attracted some of the hottest DJs in the game, including DJ Revolution of the Wake-Up Show on Shade 45, DJ Bonics, who spins for Wiz Khalifa, and Victor Duplaix, among others.
In advance of the season five finale, we caught up DJ Low Key and he spoke with us a little bit about Goodness and The Solution (which celebrates a decade next year), and he shared some of his favorite moments and gave us some insight into what makes each of these parties so great and different.
The season finale is set to kick off at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Meadowlark, and features Low Key and Lazy Eyez holding things down with DJ Squirt. Trackstar the DJ from Run the Jewels is going to be in the house, along with live art from Detour and a pop-up shop from Lawrence & Larimer. The party is $10 (unless you’re on have Goodness schwag or sign up for the email list) and it goes until 9 p.m.
Goodness and The Solution are beloved Denver originals that have attracted the likes of Dave Chappelle and Killer Mike and El P of Run the Jewels in the past. There's a reason both have been so popular and lasted as long as they have. The Solution crew makes sure every party pops, and they work hard to ensure that each event retains its individual essence.
THE TRUSTED EAR: So what have you been up to? I haven't spoken with you in a long time.
DJ LOW KEY: Man, I don't even know where to start. I mean, you know, for the most part, just trying to fight the good fight and push the stuff that I dig and figure out a way to make a living off that. And, for the most part, things have been working better than ever lately, and knock on wood, it's a good time.
Tell me about Goodness. It's been very successful. I remember when it you first started it, it was like a breath of fresh air, something new to do on a Sunday.
It's crazy. What it's turned into is definitely more than I ever would've expected. Every year goes by so quick. There's so many things I want to do with the party. I have the next three summer's worth of ideas already in my head of what I'd like to before anything else pops up. You know, it's been a really cool outlet for me to link with other DJs, whether they're people I've met before, that I bring out here, or making new friends.
But, yeah, it's turned into a noble party, on kind of the fighting-the-good-fight circuit, and same with Fridays, to where people know about it outside of the city. That's, I think, a pretty special thing, in its own right. And, man, it makes me proud.
And Friday at The Solution is going year 'round, so even though Goodness is wrapping up, we've still got a packed party ... truth be told, it's even crazier. Throwing a packed party for four months is a lot easier than throwing a packed party for damn near ten years.
So, ultimately, I'm even prouder of what we've been able to achieve with the Solution. Cause it goes year around, and it allows me to have a base, where I can do all this other stuff. For the most part, it's a reasonable enough income that I can be more adventurous with other projects. I can loose money throwing a couple Solution showcases and not cry about it.
There's been a point, where that would have financially crippled me, and it's nice to be in a place where I can do an event and take a loss and not have to think twice about doing the next one because of that. And every experiment that works is further fuel for the next experiment, and whether that works or not is kind of a crap-shoot. But, you know, in the bigger picture, enough of them work that it continues.
So, yeah, man, it's cool. I never expected it to become what it’s become. You know, when you start a party, even when you have high hopes, you never know what’s going to happen with it. To this day, I’ve failed at more parties than I’ve succeeded with, in terms of concepts over the years. But the interesting part about failing when you throw events, if it fails because not that many people come out, then there’s not that many people to see that it flopped.
So in that regard, people remember your successes a lot more. And the cool thing is my biggest successes have been things that have gone on now for a while with a lot of regularity.
Like anything else, you know how the scientific method works: You try a bunch of things and you rule out what works and what doesn’t work, and tweak it, and ultimately, it evolves into something that, hopefully, a lot of people dig, and it can be successful in the long run.”
What do you think has made The Solution and Goodness so successful?
I always tell people it’s ignorant determination. That’s my description of it. You know, with both parties … back when I first started the Solution with Sounds Supreme, it was a little bit of hard-headedness—actually, a lot of hard-headedness. We both came from, at that time, a background of doing mainly Top-40 club stuff. I know a lot of Top-40 club DJs kind of looked at us sideways like, ‘Man, you’re going to give up the opportunity to make money—more money in the short run—playing Top-40 at whatever gigs, so you can go do your own thing?’
You know, it’s weird: In retrospect, it seems really simple to just go do the party you believe in, as DJs, and good things will happen. But at the time, there was a lot less of that. We just kind of … like I said, it was hard-headedness; we did what we wanted. That’s why it’s called ‘The Solution.’ It was kind of our solution to the Top-40 world and kind of doing the same formulaic club stuff, and it’s paid off in the long run.
Do you think your crowd has changed since the parties have grown?
Oh, yeah. That’s the most important part of any party, that there’s new people always coming. Regulars are very important, and ultimately, that’s what makes the parties work, but The Solution will be ten years old in February, and you can’t expect the same people who were coming out ten years ago—or even five years ago—to have the same priorities with what they do on a Friday night.
Yeah, peoples' lives change. Some of the people coming out then may be married and have kids now, and they're not really going out anymore. So to stay relevant, you really must be doing something that resonates with people.
Yeah, I mean, we make it about the music first and foremost. Me and Lazy Eyez and a lot of the DJs that I bring in as guests at both The Solution and Goodness— and also with SoWhat, all the parties I’m involved in—we all make a really strong effort to stay up on new music. And I think everybody that I work with on a regular basis has a very strong passion for music.
They haven’t reached that jaded stage, where they give up on looking forward to new music, and they haven’t given up on being excited about seeing what’s new on the scene, whether locally or anywhere in the world. And I think when you have that kind of attitude, there’s always going to be some kind of relevance. I think it’s when you kind of give up on that and you start to get overly jaded, that’s when parties lose relevance in a hurry. And also, once again, with The Solution, we make the kind of party we want to go to.
You know, when we started The Solution, it was a lot more hip-hop-based—not that it’s still not mainly still a hip-hop party—but we’re playing a wider variety of music and it’s reflective of our personal tastes changing. And as that happens, it evolves. I remember the first Solution bringing crates of records and playing Big Daddy Kane and Jaylib and stuff like that, and that’s not really what you’d hear on a regular basis, or hardly ever, at the party now.
But once again, the party evolves, and we’re still playing stuff that people have never heard every week, and we’re still having people run up and ask what it is—and we’re still pissing off somebody that wants to hear Taylor Swift. It’s all an important part of having an identity as a party.
What have been some of your favorite moments from both of these parties?
Oh, man, um … damn, I don’t even know where to start. At this point, it’s really like more great memories than I could even have hoped for—at the risk of sounding kind of cheesy. A lot of my favorite memories aren’t even tied to specific special events. They’re just great nights when I can go in and play the music I like with people who I like to hang out with. To me, that ends up being a lot more fun than some of the higher-maintenance bigger events that we do.
But, I mean, yeah, there’s been a lot of crazy moments. Doing that Outkast afterparty when they were here a couple years ago with the homie Trackstar and Cut Master Swift from Outkast was pretty unbelievable. To have a guy who’s deejaying for one of the best—if not the best—hip-hop groups ever coming in to DJ, as well as Trackstar from Run the Jewels, who’s no slouch himself.
And then having Andre 3000 in the neighborhood asking about the party. Ultimately, he didn’t come in, which was so heartbreaking. We had DJ B-Money open, so me and Lazy Eyez could go check out the show beforehand. And B-Money was outside loading up his equipment after, kind of late into the party, and he has a picture with Andre 3000 from right on the block. He didn’t come in. It was packed. I could imagine what would’ve happened.
But we’ve seen some pretty notable stuff. Dave Chappelle was at the party hanging out last year. Killer Mike and El P from Run the Jewels have been through before. Drake’s dad one time. That was a pretty hilarious night. It was right after the “Worst Behavior” video came out. It’s been crazy that those kind of people would come hang out at a small, kind of eclectic bar, definitely on some every-man shit.
Yeah, it’s cool. I guess that speaks volumes about the party’s reputation and kind of what’s going on. I guess, more important than that, some of my favorite personal moments have been when I’ve got to bring in a lot of my favorite DJs and given them a good experience at the party that they went home raving about. To me, that, a lot of times, is a good testament to what we’re doing.
Let's talk Goodness: What do you love most about that party?
Every one is completely different. That’s part of the magic. Every time I put together a lineup, I try to do something that’s unconventional, either in terms of who I’m bringing out, or what the scene is, or even if I have a local lineup, it’s people who have never played before or I’ve never even met, sometimes.
On top of that, there’s a certain magic to a seasonal party that you just can’t get any other way but having something not be available for a large portion of the year. And, you know, aquas frescas is one of my favorite things in life to drink. That never hurts. The Meadowlark patio is a special place, and you know, outdoor parties just have their own special kind of allure.
One of the other cool things about Goodness: A lot of the people who were fans of our earlier incarnation of The Solution, who maybe don’t go out or have a crazy Friday night now, kind of started coming back to that party because it kind of fits more of a grown up schedule to come out on a Sunday afternoon, especially if they come out earlier.
Yeah, it’s cool. It’s kind of helped connect that original generation of Solution fans with younger crowds. It brings together a very wide variety of people, probably a wider variety of people than any other event that I do. There’s always something cool that comes with that.
So, what's been going on with Goodness? What's changed?
I don't know if you know, but I changed up the way that it works this year. Previously it was a free party. This year, it's a $10 cover, unless you wear a Goodness button or patch or temporary tattoo—any of the different schwag we've made over the summer or before. Or, if you join the email list on my website (djlowkey.com), you can get in free.
Kind of the thought process behind that was with the neighborhood changing so fast and the space being so limited, we wanted to keep it a little more pure and make it something that's for the people who are the regulars, who have been supporting it for so long.
You know, there's multiple ways to get into the party for free, even on a regular basis—there's some people who didn't have to pay the whole summer—but the $10 cover is enough to deter random, drunk, Rockies fan, who sees a bunch of people and hears music and might not appreciate what we're doing inside.
It all started from a joke we had called "the bro" tax. Too many downtown bros were popping up at the Meadowlark, and while we're open minded, a lot of bros aren't really that open minded. So it wasn't necessarily the ideal crowd when we already had a packed party going on. So we joked for a while, 'Man, how can we do a 'bro' tax.'
But the thing about it is, you can't judge people by the way they look. But there's people that look like they might not be that hip who are really cool, and vice versa. So with Goodness, at least, we kind of made it about being down with the party, whether it's the email list, or the buttons, or the patches, or any of the other stuff.
And the regulars really appreciate it. Whereas as a DJ, I'm always happy when it's packed and there's a line—and knock on wood, generally, that's what happens on Friday nights—on Sunday, especially, people don't want it to be that packed.
They want it to be busy, but they don't want it to be 120 percent of the bar's capacity is trying to fit in that space. So for us, it's been a way to—it's still a really busy party, especially the second half of the day—it's given us a way to double back and focus on the core.
With the neighborhood changing so fast, and the party now being five summers old, it kind of gave us the opportunity to try to protect the integrity a bit and make it more about the people, who are coming specifically for the party, rather than just random people out trying to day drink on a Sunday in the neighborhood.
It's really cool. Now it's gotten to a level where people from out of town will hit me up wanting to play at it, which is kind of crazy. Even from my favorite DJs—even some of my DJ heroes will hit me up to play at it sometimes. It's crazy. It's wild, man. There's a lot of moments where it doesn't seem like real life.
I think a lot of people would say something like that if they were playing in front of thousands of people. To me, it's much more gratifying to know that some of my all-time favorite DJs—literally, some people I've looked up to since I got turntables—are excited to come play my small, patio party at the Meadowlark and look forward to it and say really nice things about it.
So, yeah, it's cool, and it lets me know that we're doing the right thing and my ideas are working to a certain degree for some people. I have a lot of other ideas I want to do. You know, the cool thing about it, you know, Fridays—you know, once again, knock on wood—are an institution, to a certain degree. People are coming out pretty steady.
And so with that it gives me a really cool base to build off of and do other projects. It lets me put a little bit of that Solution door money into doing cool stuff. And you know, I want to stay doing creative parties and different stuff. The bar in Denver is raising at a very fast rate. What was impressive a year or two ago is not that impressive now. And so it's extra motivation to kind of do different stuff.
One of the cool things about growing this big email list this summer at Goodness is, hopefully, when we want to do different, other kind of cool parties, that are in non-traditional locations, or they're one-offs, or concerts, or whatever, hopefully, we can reach a lot of these people who have been coming out, who really kind of get what we're doing in the bigger picture.
Then we can create even more of a sense of community for them, rather than just coming out on Sundays to the Meadowlark—maybe it's a pop-up party with a food component at a random venue where we've never been before. Or coming to see a concert of somebody that I'm always raving about but you don't know who they are.
Also, we made a Goodness hot sauce, and it's really delicious. I didn't invent it. A friend of mine invented it. Actually, a friend of a friend. I've been eating it for over a decade, and the guy never really did much with it, so I teamed up with him to put it out as a Goodness hot sauce this summer.
Right now, you can only get it at the party [in Denver], but I'm going to have it some stores after. That's going to be one of my focuses. I'm not trying to make a ton of money off the hot sauce because the margins are kind of low compared to getting people in the door deejaying, but it tastes delicious. It tastes kind of summery. It's like a sweet, spicy, tangy, really unique kind of flavor.
The number one ingredient is pear. It doesn't taste like any hot sauce you've probably ever had. And the best part is since I didn't invent it, I can talk really cocky about it. Yeah, it doesn't taste like any other hot sauce. I've been eating it for over a decade, and it's still my favorite hot sauce. I've already had people hit me up from out of town wondering if I'd ship it. It's going to have a little life of its own. I've already got all these DJs from all over the country hooked on it.
Once again, I'm not trying to change my main focus, but it's delicious, man. I would never talk so cocky if I was the inventor. I will say this. There's very few things that i would want to like ... I would want to invent it, normally, if I put my anything [brand] on a hot sauce, but this hot sauce is so good and such a best-kept-secret of Colorado that it's a pleasure to co-brand with this guy and get his hot sauce into more people's hands.