THE SPIN ZONE: Aurora’s Mu Brewery embraces vinyl on Wednesdays


AURORA | Striding into Mu Brewery on Wednesday nights has begun to feel a bit like stumbling into an episode of “Cheers.”

Well, that is, if Norm and the gang also happened to be regular contributors to Pitchfork.

Upon entering the Mu threshold anytime after 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, a tight cluster of pals greets newcomers at the door, along with a crinkly, crumbly soundscape that harkens back to a bygone era.

On a recent mid-week encounter, Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” crooned from a pair of well-loved speakers compliments of a brushed-chrome Audio Technica turntable in the back of the East Colfax brewery. Had there been fewer cell phones strewn across the bar top and a slightly thicker plume of indoor cigarette smoke, the calendar could have easily read a date 30 years prior.

“I think people are drawn to the quality,” Travis Boyles, one of roughly dozen people meandering around the watering hole, said over the buttery hum of Dylan’s cackle. “It’s not a CD, it’s not an MP3 — there’s just something about it.”

That incomprehensible magnetism Boyles, an Aurora electrician, and his wife, Meg, a teacher at REACH Charter School in Denver, feel for the creamy crackles and pops served as the impetus for what has recently turned into Vinyl Wednesday at Mu.

The growing event invites old-time vinyl hounds and champions of the medium’s recent renaissance alike to stop by Colfax’s first brewery and sign up to play one side of their favorite record. Inevitably combined with a healthy debate over whether or not Paul McCartney is in fact still alive, it’s a simple, anachronistic response to the recent spats over streaming services and the constant proliferation of 160-gigabyte music machines that can be hidden within a deck of cards.

“And it’s just something to do that breaks up the week,” Boyles said. “A couple weeks ago a guy came in and played an Alice Cooper record he hadn’t played in 30 years. It’s just cool to see, and hear, things like that happen.”

Boyles said he first got the idea for starting a vinyl night at Mu after he and his wife followed career opportunities to Aurora. The couple had originally become enamored with the concept after spinning LPs at their former local brewery, Vindication Brewing Co. in Boulder.

Striding into Mu Brewery on Wednesday nights has begun to feel a bit like stumbling into an episode of “Cheers.”

“It was just kind of a matter of carrying on tradition after we moved,” Boyles said.

He said he approached Nate Flatland, president and owner of Mu, and the logistics fell into place from there.

“When Travis proposed that we do something like this, I was totally on board,” Flatland said. “My dad had a record player when I was growing up and that’s how I insisted on listening to Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Yes. I’m definitely a fan (of vinyl) and I think something a little more intimate comes out of vinyl — it’s just got a little something extra to it.”

Wednesday night attendance has been a mixed bag thus far, according to both Boyles and Flatland, who said that some weeks only a handful of record junkies show up ready to spin LPs, while on other nights several dozen people stop by and stay for the full two hour event.

At the end of each listening session, attendees vote for their favorite tunes of the evening and the winner is awarded a prize, which usually takes the form of local theater or beer festival tickets, according to Flatland.

“The idea was to keep people coming in and hanging out, and if there’s a little skin in the game (with a prize), we thought people would be more likely to hang around for the whole two-hour event,” Flatland said. “We wanted to give people an incentive to stick around.”

So far, the majority of the records that have greeted a needle at Mu have been in the realm of rock, according to Boyles, although he said that the event is always looking to diversify to some of the more unique musical genres.

The Mu crew isn’t the only example of modern music buffs hitting the musical reset button, however, as vinyl sales and the overall popularity of the medium has significantly mushroomed in recent years, according to industry data.

Vinyl LP sales shot up 52 percent last year with over 9.2 million records sold, according to the 2014 Nielsen music report on U.S. sales. It marked the ninth consecutive year of growth for vinyl sales.

Jack White’s “Lazaretto” led all sales for LPs pressed last year with nearly 87,000 copies flying off record store shelves. Both “Abbey Road” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” by The Beatles also cracked the top 10 for overall sales, according to Nielsen.

Boyles said that the newest record he splurged for was Irish rockster Hozier’s self-titled debut, but the majority of his collection is a snapshot of the musical landscape of 40 years ago.

“If you looked at my collection, you’d think I was stuck in the 70s,” he said with a chuckle. “But that’s just because older records are cheaper — you can’t be spending $30 on a brand-new record every week.”