Alibi V.17 No.28 • July 10-16, 2008 

Spotlight

Not Just “Some Joe Schmo Bar"

Employees welcome back the Launchpad

The Launchpad opens for its first official concert on Monday, July 7.
The Launchpad opens for its first official concert on Monday, July 7.
Tina Larkin

When the Launchpad went out of commission more than four months ago, talent buyer Luis Mota had to scramble to reschedule shows.

"Right after the fire was a crazy and hectic time, more so than any other time I've been here," Mota says. "Now I'm looking forward to getting back to work."

Once he had helped reschedule as many shows as he could, all Mota and the rest of the Launchpad staff could do was wait. Some found part-time jobs at different bars Downtown and many lived off their savings, anxiously awaiting the Launchpad's return.

Now the venue is back, and so are all of its more than 20 staff members. "We're like a family," Mota says. "We have our moments where we hate each other, but we're all coming back together, and that, I think, shows the closeness."

Every one of the employees the Alibi spoke to mentioned the family-like connection they share with their coworkers. But, in its time of need, that bond wasn't enough. The venue had to rely on other members of the Downtown community for help. Bars like Ralli's Fourth Street Pub and Grill and the Blackbird Buvette provided venues for rescheduled Launchpad shows. Both the Blackbird and Ralli's also hosted several fundraisers for Launchpad employees. Mota says making connections with other bars in the area was one of the few positives that came out of the fire. "I think it got the Downtown community closer," he says. "We worked together a little bit more, and I really think that will continue."

Behind the bar, the Launchpad's signature rocket tile mosaic is intact and undamaged by the fire.
Behind the bar, the Launchpad's signature rocket tile mosaic is intact and undamaged by the fire.
Tina Larkin

Launchpad bartender Erin Saulsbury says she's grateful for all the help from other bars, and she believes other businesses have gotten something in return for their generosity. "I think we brought business to other venues, too," Saulsbury says. "I know they've appreciated it."

Fans and bands also pitched in. The Launchpad's regulars came by frequently to ask if they could help get the club back on its feet. Bands lent a hand in any way they could, including playing the employee benefit shows, which were well attended. Lighting tech Mike Salas says he expected some community aid when the Launchpad was wounded, but the outpouring of support surprised him. "People really love the Launchpad," Salas says. "It just shows how special this place is."

The Launchpad's ability to attract big-name national acts while still supporting the local scene makes it a rare breed in the region. For talent buyer and bartender Melissa Schultz, that winning combination is a big reason the Launchpad has stuck around for 11 years. "The Launchpad has been a part of Downtown for so long," Schultz says. "You can't see these types of shows anywhere else, and there's definitely been a void the last few months."

Talent buyer and security worker Brian Banks knows firsthand what it's like to share the stage with sonic celebrities. Banks is the bass player and singer in Albuquerque's Black Maria and, in his experience, there's no better place to play in Albuquerque. "You're playing on the same stage that these national acts that you see on MTV are," he says. "You're standing in the same place. You've got the same sound system and lighting. People really dig that."

Banks sacrificed financially to maintain his employment with the venue he's loved from its earliest beginnings. "I've been scratching and eking it out for the past three months because I didn't want to get another job," Banks explains. "This isn't just some Joe Schmo bar on the corner. This is the premiere Downtown music venue."