It’s hard to capture the spirit of love, especially on Valentine’s Day when Hallmark expressions and rom-com scenarios have done a fairly good job of monopolizing the romance conversation. On Friday, February 14 Thrice’s month-long French Punk Pop-Up debuted at Dairy Block. Bathed in red neon, covered in graffiti and vintage erotica and soundtracked with a blend of traditional punk, metal and more dance-friendly tracks — the previously unoccupied space on the corner of 19th and Blake became a hotbed for a more honest exploration of affection and intimacy in 2020. Free of the traditional tenderness of more saccharine amourous demonstrations, the event brought love through good food, day and night drag shows and a collaborative atmosphere that stretched from participants to guests.
“We’re bringing cocktails to complement the vision,” said Steven Waters — the owner of Run for the Roses, the neighboring downstairs bar. Waters did a good job of building out the vintage-stereo-covered main bar with drinks suited to the event’s mood. Working with a variety of high-profile partners — including Absolut, St. Germain, Natalie’s Juice, Real Dill, Monkey Shoulder, Tullamore Dew and Flor De Cana — the bar served beverages inspired by punk in both name and feel. The Rockaway Beach ($11) with Flor De Cana Seven-Year Rum, lemon, amaro and Aperol managed to channel the Ramones’ upbeat aggression with the combination of bitter liqueurs. Judy is a Punk ($11) — with Absolut, St. Germain, lemon, grapefruit, fig and pear syrup — delivered the kind of unobtrusive sophistication that has made Roses one of Denver’s most exciting new cocktail joints.
Waters was attracted to the French Punk project largely due to Thrice founder Abigail Plonkey’s desire to create an event centered around love and inclusivity. Along with the French Punk theme, the event spirited “a culture of resistance” with anti-hate, anti-violence, anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia messages weaved throughout the event. This was perfect for Waters, who spent Valentine’s Day behind the wheel of his custom bar cart The Little Rosey, delivering 600 roses to the elderly in collaboration with charitable partner Wish of a Lifetime.
Brunches were put together by Bruto and The Wolf’s Tailor owner Kelly Whitaker. “I wanted to put grains in French Punk,” said the chef, citing an early movement in which baguettes represented a more raw position in French cookery. “We drink, we smoke and we eat baguette,” imitated Whitaker. The brunch acted as a launchpad for his Noble Grain Alliance‘s Free the Baguette campaign — an ongoing operation that was partially inspired by the weekend. “Grain is part of the farm to table movement. I want to reach an audience that doesn’t really give a shit about that,” he continued. Featuring fermented baguettes with heirloom grains, the brunch was served family-style atop French newspapers. Cheeses, grapes, prosciutto, mousse and a range of pastries from Dry Storage made for a decadent display that was as appealing for the eye as for the taste buds.
Drag shows highlighting members of the macabre cast of Dragula entertained night and day, with outfits ranging from gothic to straight out of The Ring. Queens danced to metal covers of Lorde’s “Royals” and Radiohead’s “Creep.” Plonkey did a miraculous job of synthesizing a wide range of styles into one cohesive whole — never once did a queen’s erotic undulations feel out of place next to bites of brie and upscale charcuterie. In fact, the disparate element’s coalescence made for an even more entrancing and transporting event. Next weekend, the space will reopen as a French Punk discotheque, with the following to feature an all-night leap year party.
The French Punk Pop-Up is located at 1855 Blake St., Suite 140, Denver. Tickets and a schedule for upcoming events are available here.