After 15 years, The Summit stays on top of music

Farquahrt’s. Storyville. The San Juan Room. The Solid Muldoon. Player’s. Purple Haze. The Pelican’s Nest.

I could go on, but to do so would give the false impression that I’m an old drunk. And I’m not a drunk, I’m just old. But my point should be clear. Bars in Durango are fleeting enterprises.

That’s what makes this week’s 15th birthday celebration at The Summit so impressive. The list of bars that have come and gone since the Bachmans and the Appleton brothers renamed The Loft in 1997 is much longer than space allows here.

But since then, it’s been the only place to find live music every weekend in downtown Durango. Current owner Scottie Sindelar worked there for five years before purchasing the bar on July 1, 2008.

This week’s schedule is a microcosm of the reason for The Summit’s longevity, as well as the biggest challenge to it. Bluegrass on Wednesday, reggae on Thursday, hip-hop on Friday and DJs spinning electronic music Saturday – that’s eclectic.

“I think consistency in a wide range of music options keeps the market we target,” Sindelar said. “I love the booking aspect because it exposes me to so many different things.”

As one who has lived the nightlife, I can say that Sindelar is a true champion of the people. Nine years of late nights that stretch into early mornings is not a career for the weak of mind or body. That means nine years of drunks. Drunks who fight, drunks who do terrible things to your facilities and drunks who still complain that there’s no live music scene in Durango after spending six hours in your bar jamming out to a band that cost all of $5 to see. And yet, every time you walk in to The Summit, there’s Sindelar greeting you with a smile.

“I just keep my head on straight and try to deal with each situation with as much hospitality as I can,” he said. “It’s in my genes to be nice. And as much bad as comes with it, there’s twice the good – when the dance floor’s packed it offsets some puke in the bathroom. I just take a nice long hike the following day.”

One of Sindelar’s biggest challenges is booking music that people want to see at the right price. He’s rarely able to charge more than $5, but the acts come from across the country.

It takes a lot of guesswork and often requires an adventurous spirit from his audience to take a chance on an as-yet unheard-of band. And a lot can happen in 15 years; kids who were 21 in 1997 are now 36, and many a musical trend has come and gone during those years.

“I try to keep up on the trends, but I can differentiate quality, and my main thing when booking is quality within a genre. If it’s good musicianship, I can dig it.”

Keep digging, Scottie – Durango would not be the same without you.