Location: 696 N. Circle Drive
Phone: (719) 358-6720
Craig Tomanini has four daughters and an intimate knowledge of the bar scene around Colorado Springs.
As the drummer for local rock band The Nocturnal Tomatoes, he knows about the liquor-soaked patrons, the late hours and the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. As his daughters became teenagers, he decided they needed a place to hear live music — without all that alcohol.
So, in December he opened MoodSwings Acoustic Lounge, at 696 N. Circle Drive, northeast of Platte Avenue and Circle.
“From cradle to grave, that’s what I tell people,” he said. “These kids just can’t go to the Black Sheep and hear a band, even when it’s all-ages night. There’s still exposure to alcohol.”
Tomanini, who also has a full-time job in addition to playing most weekends around Colorado Springs, says the club has been a dream of his for a while — and now he’s made it happen.
His business model isn’t just about the $5 he charges as a cover fee or the $1 food and drink menu — he also wants to attract and showcase local bands, some of them teenagers with a lot of talent, but not a lot of stage experience.
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “We want a lineup that will promote the all-ages concept and we’re really trying to cater to the mid-teen demographic. We have an open-mic night for kids and we’ve booked some bands that are really up-and-coming.”
And starting in May, the club will host a new talent showcase, modeled after a popular event in Denver. It’s not all about making money, Tomanini says.
“We’re trying to give something back to the community — give kids a place to go,” he said. “And give bands experience on stage.”
But that’s not all. MoodSwings is also a place for local artists to hang their work without an exorbitant gallery fee. When it sells — and Tomanini says he’s sold a few pieces — he takes a cut of the price.
“It keeps the walls from being bare,” he said. “And, it gives them a chance to showcase what they do. It works out for everybody.”
The club isn’t packed every weekend night, he admits. But he’s working on social media marketing to get the word out — and to help bands promote their gigs as well.
“A lot of places, they’ll demand you bring in people before you can play,” he said. “I’ve heard of places that give bands 50 tickets to sell. If they only sell 42; they can’t play. This is an answer to that. We let them play for tips — and they can have all the food they can eat. We try to pay them too. It’s just fair.”
As a musician, Tomanini is all too familiar with the vagaries of the Colorado Springs music scene. He’s working to mitigate that for his clients, and is trying to educate club owners about the low wages bands typically receive.
“Sometimes, if you average it out by the hour, we’re only making $3, $4,” he said. “This is our art, it’s what we do — and we should be better compensated. It’s a weird environment in Colorado Springs, where club owners think you should pay them to play. It doesn’t happen in other cities.”
Still, he knows the club’s success depends on the bands that play during the weekends.
“Finding acts is important to the bottom line,” he said. “Some nights we have three people, and some nights, the place is so packed that we have people sitting on the floor.”
The club is a work in progress, he said. And he’s marketing it as more than a nightclub for teenagers. He’s leasing out the space for business meetings and conferences. That brings in some additional money too.
Right now, about 70 percent of the revenue comes from those outside events. That money allows him to give fledgling bands a chance to succeed.
“I have a lot of ideas, things we might do,” he said. “We’ve done some stand-up here, some open mic nights. We’ve even had a drum circle.”
Still, he knows that the venue and the location need more marketing before he can declare MoodSwings an unequivocal success.
“We have some work to do,” he said. “Still, I’m hiring someone part-time to help with the food, and we’re going to be doing some extra events in the summer. We’ve done pretty well in the first four months — so I think we’ll be around for a while.”